Today I started Week 13 of the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide program!
I’d never thought I’d say this but I was so glad to be back doing her workouts! I know, crazy, right? But it’s true. But I don’t want to give away too much today – I’m going to save my thoughts for my review at the end of this week!
Before I move on to reviewing Weeks 13-24, though, I thought I’d share my thoughts on doing the Kayla Itsines 12 Week Bikini Body guide program and write this (rather long) post to address some the questions that I’ve noticed are most often asked about the workouts, especially on her Instagram page.
A lot of girls seem really confused about how the circuits are done in the program so I thought I’d break it down below:
Basically, each workout consists of eight different moves. In the first circuit, you do the first four moves again and again for seven minutes. Then you take a rest for one minute. In the second circuit, you do the remaining four moves over and over again for another seven minutes. When that’s up, you get another minute to rest. Then you simply repeat everything you’ve just done.
So for example: one circuit will consist of, say, 10 jump squats, 5 squats, 24 lunges and 5 burpees. So when your seven minutes begin, you have to do 10 jump squats, 5 squats, 24 lunges and 5 burpees. If your seven minutes are not up yet, you have to keep doing that set of 10 jump squats, 5 squats, 24 lunges and 5 burpees again and again and again until the full seven minutes are up. Then you can collapse on your mat and gasp for air until your one minute of rest is up and you have to start the second circuit! (By the way, the moves and reps I used for this example are slightly modified as I thought it wouldn’t be fair to Kayla to give away exactly what moves and reps can be found in her workouts. Tip: if you are curious and want a taste of what her workouts are like, check out her free workout downloads here.)
I hope that helps with understanding the circuits!
Now for a few more FAQs I thought I’d address. Some of these are questions that I had in the beginning as well and which made me hesitate over whether the Bikini Body Guide was right for me, so now that I’ve been through the entire program, I thought it was only right to share what I’ve learned! (NB: Please note that these are all my own opinions, based on my own experience of the program, and that others who have done the program might have an entirely different opinion).
Are the moves hard?
Yes, they can be pretty tough. I was lucky because I had already spent quite a few years building up my physical fitness through running and gym classes (doing Les Mills Body Attack classes really gave me the edge here because they incorporate a lot of plyometric-based moves which is what Kayla’s workouts use as well). However, I too struggle with the workouts at times, especially towards the end as they get progressively harder. I would probably suggest just trying the first week to determine your level of fitness. If you are truly struggling, perhaps you could just repeat Week 1 a few times until you’ve built up your fitness and feel ready to go on to Week 2. Again, if you’re concerned, you can try Kayla’s free downloads and see how you feel, or practise off those until you feel confident enough to begin the full 12 week program.
I’m pretty fit. Does that mean I shouldn’t be bother with the workouts or that they’d be too easy for me?
Kayla incorporates a mix of HIIT and plyometric moves in her workouts. Again, this is all strictly IMO, but on that basis alone, I think they would be a challenge for just about anybody, no matter how fit they already were. As I had been working towards a half marathon while taking strength classes and a couple of plyometric-based classes on the side before I actually began the program, I thought I was already pretty well conditioned and did wonder if I would just be wasting money on this. But like I said before, I found the workouts really took it out of me, even if they were just half an hour long each session! I’ve also read reviews by other girls on Instagram who said they got their fit boyfriends to do a session with them and even the guys found it pretty hard.
On average, how many times can you repeat the four exercises in a circuit before your seven minutes are up?
Oooh! This one is a toughie! It really differs for everyone. Some girls are really amazing and they seem to be able to repeat the moves at least two to three times in just seven minutes. The average to me seems to be 1.5 to two rounds and that’s what I find I’m doing too. I have to admit that as I get closer to the end and the moves get harder (plus the reps get higher!), I can only manage one round per seven minutes or a little over one round. Sometimes, when I’m really struggling, I’m barely able to get just one round done!
But, overall, you shouldn’t really worry about how many times you can repeat a circuit.
Just go it at your own pace. What I find to be much more effective is if you concentrate on getting the technique right – for example, sinking down low and holding the pose for a couple of seconds in a weighted squat or making sure your legs are as straight and steady as can be as you lower and raise them in a leg raise move – rather than concentrating on how many reps you can reel off. Feeeeel the burn!!! Sometimes, doing a move slowly and properly can actually increase the difficulty and intensity (and hence the effectiveness of the move) rather than doing it quickly and halfheartedly. Once you’ve got the moves down pat, then you can think about increasing your speed while continuing to hold your technique.
Tip: Run through each new move a couple of times before you begin your circuit.
As the moves vary from week to week and Kayla introduces different moves each week, it can help to flip to her glossary and actually try out each new move a couple of times before you begin the workout. That way, you won’t waste time when your seven minute interval actually begins and you’re stopping and squinting at the page and going, “Wait – what? Where am I supposed to place my knee again? Kayla, is that even physically possible??!!??” (Yes, I have been guilty of this!)
What sort of equipment do you need?
Again, go at your own pace – and don’t worry if you have to pause to catch your breath.
Sometimes, the moves just totally wear me out and instead of waiting for my one-minute break, I pause for a couple of seconds in between moves to snatch a quick drink of water and to catch my breath. I try not to do it too often and I try not to let myself pause for too long because, really, the one minute in between circuits is your actual proper break. But sometimes, when the moves are really hard or the reps are really high, taking those couple of seconds to catch your breath and regroup really does help, so don’t worry about pausing if you really have to – just do it and then get back into it as quick as you can before those seven minutes are up!
Managing high reps:
As mentioned earlier, the reps for some of Kayla’s moves get progressively higher as the weeks go by. My problem with circuit-type workouts is I don’t often enjoy repetition – I find it quite boring and mentally challenging. I know that physically I can do it, but mentally accepting the fact is another thing. On one or two occasions, I do find myself having instead to break down the reps in order to complete the move.
For example, in one particular circuit, we have to do 50 reps of one particular move. It’s not a particularly hard move but when you have to do 50 reps of it, it can be a killer! I got really bored and tired of doing those 50 reps so I decided to break it down. I would do 10-15 reps of that first move, then I’d go on to the second move in that circuit. When I’ve completed the second move, I’d do another 10-15 reps of the first move again. Then I’d do the third move, followed by yet another 10-15 reps of the first move, and so on with the fourth move. I find that helps a lot!
Also, sometimes when you have to do reps of a particularly hard move, I find it easier to tackle it when I’ve broken down the reps into smaller sets. Take, for example, having to do 15 reps of a decline push-up (so hard for folks like me with zero arm strength!). Just thinking about doing 15 reps of decline push-ups kills me. So I break it down once more. I do five decline push-ups in a row, then I stop and let myself catch a breath for a few seconds. Then I do five more decline push-ups and I stop for a few seconds’ rest again. Finally, I do the last five decline push-ups and I’m done! Breaking it down into smaller sections definitely helped me to see it as a doable goal and to get it done without (too much) whinging and cringing and hand-wringing first!
What if I have a really crap week or couldn’t complete all the workouts in one week?
Sometimes a bad week happens. Maybe you’ve been really, really busy with work and social commitments. Maybe you’ve had to take a trip out of town and couldn’t bring your dumbbells with you (Maybe your family threatened to throw your dumbbells into the sea if you brought it along on that mini-cruise they’ve been planning for ages). Maybe you’re just feeling pretty sluggish and burnt-out. Maybe you’ve been sick. Or maybe this new week of workouts has just been really super hard and now you’re feeling a bit disheartened because you don’t feel you might have done it as well as you should have.
But, hey, that’s part of life. Obstacles and illnesses and the need for an occasional break will happen, and the really important thing is not to beat yourself up over it. I’ve had weeks where I’ve been super sick and just could not face working out – could barely face even getting out of bed just to get a glass of water. When I got back into the program, I found my fitness level had dropped considerably (all that lying around on beds and sofas wrapped in shawls like an invalid out of an Agatha Christie novel while constantly sneezing and hacking certainly doesn’t help build endurance and strength!) and I wasn’t as strong as I once was in my workouts. I think at that time I was in Week 10 and I was super disappointed because I was only a few weeks away from finishing. I think I had to repeat Week 10 a couple of times before I was finally able to fully complete it. So I didn’t get to do it as I’d like to – but, hey, I still did it! What I’m trying to say here (in a very longwinded way) is if you have to miss a week or repeat a week, don’t beat yourself up over it. What’s important is to give yourself the break you deserve, then get right back into it in the very next week!
Okay, I think that’s about it! If I think of anything else I’ve missed out, I’ll add it on later or in a future post! I hope what I’ve written here has been helpful! And finally, if you want more insight into how I found the program, check out my week by week review, the list of which can be found here. Good luck! 🙂